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DOI 10.4461/GFDQ.2019.42.10


Climate and human influence on the vegetation of Tyrrhenian
Italy during the last 2000 years: new insights from microcharcoal and non-pollen palynomorphs

Pages 203-2014


The history of vegetation in the Italian peninsula during the last 2000 years was shaped by a complex interplay of several factors, including the history of human societies, changes in land use, and the succession of climate events. In order to disentangle these factors, we present a multidisciplinary record from a marine core collected in the Gulf of Gaeta, interpreted in the light of other palaeoenvironmental records from Tyrrhenian Italy. Pollen records, complemented by new data on Non-Pollen Palynomorphs (NPPs) and microcharcoal, are used to reconstruct changes in the vegetational landscape, stock-breeding activities, fire, and land use. Foraminiferal and oxygen isotope data provide independent information on climate changes. NAO-index and sunspot data support the interpretation of changes in atmospheric circulation. In this paper, by examining the effect of climate and human activity on the landscape during a series of periods of the last 2000 years, representing cultural or climate phases (Roman Period, Dark Ages, Medieval Climate Anomaly, Little Ice Age, and Modern Period), we found that human impact produced a general and progressive decline of forest vegetation. However, irrespective of the societal cultural phase, forest declines occurred when negative NAO oscillations induced dry climate, especially during sunspot minima.

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